Published in the September 1, 2016 edition


NORTH READING – This is a story about Christmas in August or how it’s never too early to start planning for the big event.

The Selectmen gave the green light (pun intended) to the Reading-North Reading Chamber of Commerce and its plans to improve the annual holiday lighting ceremony on the common this year by illuminating more trees than ever on the village green.

Every year for the last 10 years the Chamber has sponsored the holiday lighting festival on the common as a day of fun events that culminates with the arrival of Santa Claus and the activation of lights on the common to kick off the Christmas season.

This year, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Egan explained, the Chamber wants to grow the event by putting lights on six trees that line the west side of the common along Haverhill Street, opposite the Batchelder School.

The trees in question are somewhat younger than other trees on the common that have been annually lit for Christmas for the past decade. But now the feeling is the west side trees are mature enough to handle the lights, said Egan. The Great Oak in center of the common will not be draped in holiday lights because of its age.

Egan said she’s been working with the town’s Supervisor of Buildings Julie Knight-Spurr on arrangements for hanging the lights on the trees and the taking them down in a timely fashion after the holiday season.

The annual lighting festival is the Chamber’s gift to the community at no cost or low cost. It’s a fun way to kick off the holiday season and always happens over the holiday weekend. This year’s event will be Sunday, Nov. 27.

The Chamber tried to grow the event last year by showcasing local restaurants and businesses and having more family events, Egan stated. “There’s something in it for everyone,” she said.

The Chamber was hoping to add the additional lights last year but simply ran out of time, she said. This year the Chamber Board has voted to invest $6,000 as an infrastructure cost to accommodate the additional lights. That will entail electrical work, trenches to be dug for the necessary conduits and professional grade LED lights to be hung on the trees. The lights will match those elsewhere on the common.

The reason Egan brought the issue to the Selectmen is to make sure the board was OK with the town providing the resources to hang the lights before the big day and take them down after the event.

Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto said the town’s contribution is to hang the lights, which is something they do now. At one point that service was donated by a private vendor but over time it was absorbed by the DPW.

The DPW sees that the work gets done as time is available, Gilleberto said. “We would expand that to include the additional trees on the west side of the common. I think we all believe that this will enhance the experience.”

Gilleberto said the Historic District Commission was consulted and they agreed to white lights similar to the east side of the common.

“It’s a great commitment on the part of the Chamber. From our point of view there will be some responsibility but I believe we can absorb that cost,” he said.

“It’s a great event,” commented Selectmen Chairman Robert Mauceri.

Over the years the Selectmen have voted against United Nations Day (twice), but they’ve never voted against Christmas and wouldn’t start now. So they had no trouble giving Egan a commitment to continue to cover the cost of hanging the lights in the budget, which the town has been doing anyway. In fact, no vote was even necessary.

Gilleberto said the exact cost would depend on whether the work can be done in the regular work day and on when winter arrives. If winter arrives late, there’s more time for the lights to be hung. If winter arrives early it’s more challenging, he said. The town has several options to use in getting the job done, including using outside resources, he said.

“Any program that brings the community together is a good program. This is one of the best we have,” said Selectman Jeff Yull.

“So bottom line is, the Chamber will get what you want. How we do it, we’ll get it figured out. It’s the right thing to do,” said Michael Prisco.